United States men’s national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has announced his roster and named Landon Donovan as captain for Friday’s friendly against Ecuador in East Hartford, Conn., a game that will double as a testimonial match to the retiring long-time USA superstar.
As anticipated, several key players, such as Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey, Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley, New England Revolution midfielder Jermaine Jones, Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman and Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler were left off the roster. Their teams all have games with serious playoff implications coming up on Friday and Saturday — since Major League Soccer doesn’t observe the FIFA calendar — and Klinsmann is believed to have been mindful of their games. When the USA takes on Honduras in Boca Raton, Fla. next Tuesday, they are all expected to be present.
Klinsmann will use the first extended camp of his first full World Cup cycle to take stock. "We look at these two games as an opportunity to take a picture of the player pool as it stands now," Klinsmann said in a statement. "Already the hierarchy starts to shift in some ways, which is normal at the beginning of a cycle. We are excited to look at this group against a very competitive team like Ecuador, and then we will have a chance to bring some different faces for the game against Honduras."
With goalkeeper Tim Howard, the starter at the last two World Cups, taking a year-long leave from the national team, Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan is considered the favorite to replace him. The other major contender is Nick Rimando of Real Salt Lake. They each registered a shutout half against the Czech Republic in the USA’s first post-World Cup game, a 1-0 win back on Sept. 3. Bill Hamid is the intriguing third choice. The much younger DC United goalie — he is just 23 years old, whereas Guzan is 30 and Rimando 35 – has steadily honed his craft and is already in his fourth season as a starter.
On the back line, John Brooks will get the chance to build on his breakout World Cup performance in spite of his troubles in regaining his starting job with Hertha Berlin. Timmy Chandler and Omar Gonzalez were regulars at the World Cup and remain squarely in the picture for starting jobs. Michael Orozco and Tim Ream, central defenders who faded from contention for Brazil will have another opportunity to prove their mettle. Greg Garza could earn his second cap at left back after making his debut in Prague. Right back DeAndre Yedlin is something of a surprise inclusion, given that his clubmate Dempsey wasn’t called up and the Sounders are in a dead heat with the Los Angeles Galaxy for the Supporters Shield. But with a work permit hearing coming up for his mooted move to Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League, any U.S. appearances will help strengthen his case.
Absent Bradley, Jones and Beckerman, the midfield will look entirely different from recent years. In their stead, we could see several players slated to become regulars in the near future. Klinsmann will likely pick his central midfield from Joe Corona, Mix Diskerud, Luis Gil and Alfredo Morales, who are all promising young players with limited national team seasnoning. The more experienced Alejandro Bedoya and 19-year-old Julian Green are prime candidates to start on the wings.
Up front is where the roster is most intriguing. In addition to Donovan, who will be rightly feted, the corps of forwards consists of Jozy Altidore, Joe Gyau, Miguel Ibarra and Bobby Wood. Altidore is once again having trouble making an impact of any sort on Sunderland. Gyau, a quick winger, has recently made his debut for German juggernauts Borussia Dortmund. Ibarra of Minnesota United FC is the first player ever called up from the reincarnated North American Soccer League, which is designated as the second-tier domestic league below MLS. Wood, meanwhile, has carved out a role with 1860 Munich in Germany’s second tier and the Hawaiian is still something of an enigma.